By My Side:SAFE WORD: OASIS 2

By: Michele Zurlo
Chapter One





“Fuck.” Sean Winquist slammed his cell phone on the hard surface of the mahogany desk in front of him. Though it technically belonged to him, the desk happened to be occupied by his assistant, Marcella Abbott. She jumped at the unexpected bit of violence from a man she’d never seen lose his temper, not once in the thirteen months she’d worked for him. “Two days. How the hell am I supposed to find a replacement in two fucking days?”



She smoothed her skirt and took a breath before she looked up from her keyboard. The heat in his hazel eyes had nudged them closer to brown. Marcella swallowed and squeezed her legs together. If he once directed that kind of heat in her direction, she would be naked and on her knees in no time. Who was she fooling? He had only to ask. Heat could be generated after the fact.



“I could do it.”



His eyes widened in shock, and she dropped her gaze, afraid of a judgment she couldn’t handle. She snaked out a hand, grabbed his phone, and examined it closely. If he’d broken it, she would need to make sure he had a new one.



“That was Gretchen.”



He spoke softly, and she cringed at his tone. Day in and day out for over a year, she had been at his side. She traveled everywhere with him. She lived in a suite in his mansion. She planned his days and organized his house. At first he hadn’t given her much to do. Within two months of her arrival, though, he had trusted every aspect of his life to her capable hands.



When she first began working for him, he would disappear for a weekend here and there. Marcella had arranged accommodations for a different woman each time. By the time six weeks had passed, he had divested himself of every one of his submissives except for Gretchen. Though he now only saw her sporadically, Marcella knew damn well when he spoke to Gretchen.



The tone in his voice conveyed a refusal. Thank you, but no thank you. He would gladly tie up Gretchen and whip her until she climaxed, but he wouldn’t touch Marcella at all. Once, while traveling in New York City during the spring, she had slipped on a patch of ice. He’d caught her, pulling her so close to his body that she could feel the hardness of his chest against her arm and shoulder. And then his cheeks had reddened. He had let go and turned stiffly away, nodding vaguely at her expression of gratitude.



Why in the world did she lust after a man who hated the very thought of physical contact with her? She’d taken the chance only because of the wish she’d submitted to Oasis. Surely this development meant an opening for Marcella. They’d told her to expect fulfillment soon.



Outside of a new scratch it could have picked up anywhere, the phone hadn’t suffered damage. She placed it back on the desk. Gathering her courage, she raised her gaze to lock with his. “I know.”



He shook his head and turned away, but not before she caught the spark of interest that flared briefly in his eyes. “No, Marcella, you don’t know. You have no experience with this kind of thing. Cancel the event. Refund the donations.”



“No. Sean, you can’t do that. We’ve spent four months planning this. People paid ten thousand dollars each to see you with a submissive.” She didn’t have to remind him that the money would benefit his favorite leukemia charity. His younger brother had lost that battle at the tender age of thirteen. Sean had been fifteen and completely helpless as he watched his brother’s valiant fight.



He crossed the room and pressed his forehead against a windowpane. Tension radiated from his body. This meant so much to him. After achieving fame and fortune as a Hollywood producer by age thirty-five, Sean had turned his philanthropic efforts toward raising money for charities that funded research and provided assistance for families affected by leukemia.



Marcella’s heart seized a bit as she watched him. Throwing caution to the wind, she rounded the desk and came to stand behind him. By moving away whenever she came too close, he’d trained her to keep distance between them. Now she ignored his unspoken rule. She reached out and rested her hands on his shoulders. A shudder ran through him, but she didn’t let that bit of rejection dampen her mission.



“Sean, I know I’m not beautiful and sexy like Gretchen, but if you put me in one of those bustier tops and a mask, the lighting is low enough so that nobody will really know the difference.”



Personally, Marcella found Gretchen’s skeletal thinness unattractive. Women were meant to have curves. The augmented breasts that rounded out Gretchen’s padded bras couldn’t hope to compete with Marcella’s natural endowment. Marcella didn’t spend hours of time and thousands of dollars on her makeup or hair, but she did take time with her appearance. If Gretchen was a ten, then Marcella considered herself a solid seven. Prettier than average, but not jaw-droppingly beautiful.



His shoulders moved as a desperate chuckle fell from his lips. “Fuck. Marcella, it’s not about beauty. If it was just about beauty, I’d use you in a heartbeat.”



The pulse in her throat picked up a little. He’d never before commented on her physical appearance one way or the other.

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